Friday, June 08, 2007

On things I really know nothing about...

I know I am steeping into a hornets nest here, so I must clarify that my understanding on the topic is fairly limited. While I must confess that I am fascinated by technology, I usually limit myself to writing about personal technology. However, I do follow trends in military technology for the simple fact that several innovations made in military technology have made it into regular day-to-day use, much like how auto-racing has invariably led to virtually every advancement in passenger car technology today (from the humble rear-view mirror in 1907). While, many would attribute most advancements to the might of the US military-industrial-scientific machine, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has seen some of its developments in food-packaging technology (thanks to our involvement in Siachen) make it to grocery stores across the country.
But we are not talking about food over here – even though food sciences research has been remarkable. After hours of wandering aimlessly across internet forums, because I often do that sort of thing to get leads and I find internet forums to be quite fascinating (I’m a member in a couple) you also get a clue of what is going on. And one of the more interesting things that I spotted was the tremendous resentment towards the media on fairly well-publicised stories against the DRDO, which in essence accused them of incompetence.
Again, and before I get accused of veering one way or another, I must clarify that I really don’t know much, so bear with me here. I will not blame the scientists over here though, I personally believe that thanks to our years of dilly-dallying on military projects thanks to a succession of governments who have found it more conducive to accept bribes from arms dealers, whose son’s smash up perfectly nice BMW 7-series (killing a few people in the process) rather than help come up with the funds to develop the best we can.
At the end of the day, there is no argument against the fact that our best scientists and engineers graduating from college do not join the DRDO, or any major governmental research body for that matter. Blaming reservation politics for this would be unfair right now, because the emergence of better jobs and opportunities for such graduates exist. Again, I do not disagree from the contention that the DRDO has not been up to scratch with some of their more recent projects, most of which are years and in some cases, decades beyond schedule (The Light Combat Aircraft being a pretty bad case in point). Fair enough, there have been some successes. The problem here, according to me, is not with the organization, but with government apathy. In some cases, there has been a serious funds crunch, with at least this current government more content on pilfering coffers to strengthen the grassroots organization of the cast (you really think the NREGP is anything but that?) rather than putting more money into defence research.
I might be wrong here, some might argue that the DRDO is well funded enough, but I really don’t think so. I mean look at the stuff that DARPA is talking about in the US, and I get pretty scared. We talk of ourselves as a world power and demand a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (Every permanent member has a significant level of military production) but try to run our Armed Forces on imported hardware from a bunch of Russians whose agents can afford to throw some of the best parties in Delhi. The solution, according to me, and this is not the opinion of someone in the know, is that we pour more money into research, pay kids more, make them want to become scientists and engineers, and maybe, just maybe we’ll get somewhere.
And point two, there really needs to be better PR somewhere in the system, because I am pretty sure that while many people who write on the armed forces know more than me, that is not exactly saying much, is it? But then again, I have always had this sneaking suspicion that most journalists know dick, but will never admit it! Maybe, that’s why I call this blog what I call it!


tyler said...

you did step on thin ice there.
But i'm disappointed at the diplomatic stance.
i know fr sure you could've been more scathing and straightforward in this post.
truth be told most of there 'journalists' are sons and daughters of big hot shots in the private and public sphere who never knew what it took to struggle and got their english from watchin hollywood movies or reading jeffery archer.
in any case, failure is the basis for most scientific endeavours. let's now forget edison failed 200+ times before inventing the bulb:)

govt apathy is somethin india has learned to survive with. it's not changing anytime soon.

Nitin said...


First time here. And I really liked this post.

As someone outside the profession, I observe that ignorance about defence matters runs perhaps a close second to ignorance of basic economics.

But what do you say to those who can't claim ignorance as defence, and yet come up with some high-class bovine excreta?

Finally, there is a Pankaj Mishra effect---writing for the foreign press requires dissing the country in the superlative.